Xunantuich Mayan Ruins
Xunantunich (shoo-NAHN-too-nich) is a Maya archaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles (130 km) west of Belize City (Latitude: 17.083, Longitude: -89.133), in the Cayo District. Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border. Its name means "Stone Woman" in the Maya language (Mopan and Yucatec combination name), and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is currently unknown. The "Stone Woman" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892. She is dressed completely in white, and has fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of El Castillo; ascends the stone stairs and disappears into a stone wall.
Most of the structures date from the Maya Classic Era, about 200 to 900. There is evidence that some structures were damaged by an earthquake while they were occupied; this earthquake may have been a reason for the site's abandonment.
The core of Xunantunich occupies about one square mile (2.6 km²), consisting of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. One of its structures, the pyramid known as "El Castillo," the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol), at some 130 feet (40 m) tall. Archaeological excavations have revealed a number of fine stucco facades on some of the ancient temples of this site. Evidence of construction suggests the temple was built in three stages in the 600s AD, 700s AD, and 800s AD. The fine stucco or "frieze" are located on the final stage.
The first modern explorations of the site were conducted by Thomas Gann in 1894 and 1895. Several projects of archaeological excavations have been conducted at the site from the 1930s through the 1990s.
One of the best preserved ancient stelae is housed in a small weatherproofed building for conservation purposes. This artifact is a large stela dated within the period 200 BC to 150 AD; it depicts a Maya figure facing left. The figure is striding and clothed only in armbands.
Other nearby Maya archaeological sites include Chaa Creek and Cahal Pech.